Locatelli cheese is a hard, grated Italian cheese made from cow's milk. It has a rich, nutty flavor and granular texture that makes it perfect for grating over pastas, pizzas, salads, and more.
However, Locatelli can be difficult to find in stores outside of Italy.If you don't have access to authentic Locatelli, there are several great substitutes that can mimic its taste and texture in recipes.
What is Locatelli Cheese?
Locatelli is a type of grana cheese produced in northern Italy. It's made from raw cow's milk and aged for over a year to develop a dense, crumbly texture and sweet, fruity flavor that's balanced by pleasantly salty undertones.
This hard grating cheese has a distinctive appearance, with a golden interior and brownish outer rind. It's usually formed into large wheels or blocks. Locatelli has a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO), meaning it can only be called Locatelli if it's produced in a specific region of Italy following traditional methods.
Some key traits that set Locatelli apart include:
- Firm and crumbly texture - Excellent for grating
- Intense, nutty taste - Slightly sweet with salty notes
- Aged over 12 months - Develops complex flavors
- Cow's milk - Provides a rich mouthfeel
Locatelli works well in recipes where you want pockets of strong, salty flavor in each bite. It's commonly grated over pastas and pizzas or tossed with olive oil, fresh vegetables, cured meats, and bread as an antipasto.
When cooking with Locatelli, a little goes a long way since it has such a robust taste. Let's look at the best substitutes for times when you can't get your hands on the authentic Italian cheese.
The 5 Best Substitutes for Locatelli Cheese
If you don't have access to real Locatelli cheese, these substitutes will mimic the crumbly texture and nutty, salty flavor in recipes:
1. Pecorino Romano
Pecorino Romano is an excellent substitute for Locatelli since they both have intense, salty flavors and hard textures perfect for grating. Pecorino Romano is a sheep's milk cheese rather than cow's milk, but it provides the same bold punch of flavor ideal for pasta, pizza, and salads.
Aged over 8 months, Pecorino Romano develops a distinctively sharp, tangy taste with hints of caramel sweetness. Its crumbly texture also makes it easy to grate or shred over your favorite dishes. For a Locatelli swap, use an equal amount of Pecorino Romano.
Parmigiano-Reggiano is often called the "king of cheeses" thanks to its complex flavor and smooth, granular texture. Like Locatelli, it's a grana-style cheese from Italy made using traditional techniques.
The nutty, fruity taste of Parmigiano-Reggiano makes it a smart substitute for Locatelli when you need a hard grating cheese. However, Parmigiano-Reggiano is made from partially skimmed cow's milk and has a slightly sweeter, less salty flavor. Use the same amount called for in recipes.
3. Grana Padano
Grana Padano has earned PDO status as a traditional, semi-fat hard cheese from Italy. It makes an excellent substitute for Locatelli since it undergoes a similar long aging process to develop a crumbly texture and concentrated taste.
Grana Padano has subtle sweetness complemented by nutty, savory flavors. It also has a distinctive aroma reminiscent of fresh milk. Use Grana Padano in a 1:1 ratio when Locatelli cheese is needed.
Asiago is an Italian cow's milk cheese that ranges from semi-soft when fresh to crumbly and firm when aged. Aged Asiago works beautifully as a Locatelli substitute, since the aging process concentrates the flavors and makes it perfect for grating.
Look for Asiago d'Allevo, which is aged up to 2 years. It has a sharp, intense bite and granular texture almost identical to Locatelli. Use the same amount of Asiago d'Allevo in recipes calling for Locatelli.
Sardo is a traditional pasta filata cheese from Italy made using cow's milk. When aged over 6 months, it becomes hard and crumbly with a concentrated flavor ideal for grating.
Aged Sardo tastes slightly tangy and salty like Locatelli, with nutty and herbal undertones. It can be used as a 1:1 replacement in recipes where you need to grate or shred the cheese over dishes.
Key Takeaway: The best substitutes for Locatelli cheese include Pecorino Romano, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Grana Padano, aged Asiago, and aged Sardo. All provide a similar crumbly texture and bold, nutty taste.
How to Use Locatelli Cheese
Now that you know the best Locatelli swaps, let's look at how to use this cheese if you have access to the real deal. Here are some of the most popular ways to enjoy the intense, salty flavor of Locatelli:
Grate Over Pasta
Spaghetti, penne, orecchiette - Locatelli cheese tastes delicious freshly grated over any hot pasta. The heat helps release the cheese's aromas. Adjust the amount based on how prominent you want the cheese flavor to be.
For a simple, flavorful pasta dish, toss cooked pasta with extra virgin olive oil, fresh herbs, a grind of black pepper, and Locatelli grated on top. The cheese's saltiness balances the other ingredients beautifully.
Sprinkle on Pizza
Locatelli is a classic pizza topping in Italy. Its concentrated taste and slight crunch from the grana cuts through the richer flavors of pizza toppings like sausage and pepperoni.
Grate Locatelli over pizza right when it comes out of the oven so it melts slightly into the hot crust and toppings. Just a light sprinkling is enough to add a delicious salty bite.
Enhance the flavor of comforting soups and stews by finishing them with a sprinkle of grated Locatelli cheese. It provides a hit of saltiness and savoriness that takes minestrone, vegetable soup, broccoli cheddar soup, and other dishes to the next level.
Toss with Vegetables
Roasted vegetables, fresh salads, and grilled veggies all pair beautifully with crumbled Locatelli. Its salty flavor profile enhances natural sweetness.
Try a salad with shaved fennel, grape tomatoes, and arugula topped with Locatelli shavings, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar. You can also roast cauliflower or Brussels sprouts then top with Locatelli just before serving.
Combine with Olive Oil and Bread
Make a simple, impressive appetizer by combining good olive oil, crusty bread, and Locatelli cheese. The cheese's concentrated taste stands up to the rich oil and bread.
Drizzle extra virgin olive oil over bread chunks, add shards of Locatelli, and top with flaked sea salt and cracked black pepper for an easy bruschetta.
Tips for Buying, Storing, and Using Locatelli
Follow these tips to get the most out of Locatelli cheese:
- Check for the PDO label - This guarantees authenticity.
- Buy a smaller piece - Locatelli is strongly flavored so a little goes a long way.
- Store in waxed paper - This allows the cheese to breathe while preventing mold growth.
- Wrap tightly - Minimize exposure to air to prevent drying out.
- Refrigerate - Keep Locatelli chilled to maintain texture. Allow it to come to room temp before using for better flavor.
- Freeze grated cheese - Grated Locatelli freezes well for up to 4 months so you can grate a large batch at once.
- Enjoy the rind - The rind has concentrated flavor so leave it on when grating.
- Grind it finely - A microplane or very fine grater releases the most flavor and allows it to melt into hot foods.
Following these best practices allows you to enjoy Locatelli's full potential whenever it's used in recipes.
Is Locatelli cheese vegetarian?
Yes, Locatelli cheese is vegetarian-friendly since it's made purely from cow's milk. It does not contain any meat products.
What wine pairs best with Locatelli cheese?
Locatelli's bold, salty flavor pairs well with full-bodied red wines like Barolo, Chianti Classico, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Sangiovese. The intensity of Locatelli also stands up to sweet wines like Port. Sparkling wines and dry rosés complement Locatelli's richness too.
Is Locatelli good for grating?
Yes, Locatelli is an excellent grating cheese. Its firm, granular texture formed during the aging process allows Locatelli to grate smoothly. The small shards also easily incorporate into hot foods. Finely grated Locatelli melts beautifully when topped on pizza, pasta, vegetables, and more.
What does Locatelli taste like?
Locatelli has a concentrated, savory flavor with pleasant salty characteristics. It tastes nutty and earthy, with fruity notes. The flavor has some sweetness but mainly comes across as tangy and salty. Locatelli becomes more crumbly and intensely flavored with age.
Can I use Pecorino instead of Locatelli?
Absolutely. Pecorino Romano makes an ideal substitute for Locatelli since they are both hard, crumbly cheeses with bold saltiness. The main difference is that Pecorino Romano is a sheep's milk cheese while Locatelli uses cow's milk, but they can be used interchangeably.
With its granular texture, concentrated flavor, and long aging process, Locatelli is a prized Italian cheese. Although it can be difficult to source outside Italy, there are several excellent substitutes available.
Aged, crumbly cheeses like Pecorino Romano, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Grana Padano, and Asiago mimic Locatelli's salty intensity.